Multi-room Home Stereo Wiring - What Are My Options?

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by rave0035, Jan 16, 2017.

  1. rave0035

    rave0035 Disassemble first, ask questions later. Subscriber

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    Hi! An impending kitchen remodel has me rethinking how we listen to music in our house, and how we could add some wireless integration as we (begrudgingly) enter the 21st Century.

    We have three primary listening spaces:
    • Living Room (two sources: an analog Pioneer receiver primarily used for FM, and a tube console used for LP's - ceramic cart).
    • Kitchen (analogue receiver or integrated (TBD make/model))
    • Basement (Analog Pioneer receiver and TT - the 'serious listening' zone)
    I also have about 40-50 gigs of digital music that lives on a laptop and an ipod... not ideal. No DAC, and don't even really understand them yet.
    The wife likes to stream podcasts and streaming channels occasionally.

    All three rooms have a pretty short and easy run to my laundry room, so getting wires to/from each of the systems or to a central, out-of-the-way location is no sweat.

    Here's what I'd like to do:
    • Be able to share signal across most of these sources (I.E. - put on a record in the living room? You can flip to that source in the kitchen and tune in while you're chopping broccoli). I'm thinking some kind of a distribution unit is needed?
    • Have a way for the wife to call up a podcast or streaming channel on her phone or tablet and play it (most important in kitchen/LR)
    • Ideally, be able to play and access my digital music collection remotely, without having to suffer a dramatic loss in audio quality. Only my basement system is really for sensitive listening, but I'm a snob.
    I'm not interested in a single amp, multi-room setup - I like having separate systems in each room.
    I'm very clueless on the wireless/bluetooth arena, so be gentle with me there.
    I'm open to some sort of music server, but want a pretty low maintenance/user friendly setup that can live 'out of the way'.

    Budget? I'd like to do this with the minimal amount of gear possible, but I'd also like it to work relatively seamlessly and with minimal setup.

    What say you gurus of digital media?
    Mike
     
  2. rave0035

    rave0035 Disassemble first, ask questions later. Subscriber

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    Also, this may be the wrong forum for this... let me know if this belongs in GAD.
    Mike
     
  3. chicks

    chicks Lunatic Member

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    Lots of multi room wifi options these days. Sonos was king of the hill for years, but Denon, BlueSound and Yamaha MusicCast are making inroads.

    Alexa voice control coming soon to Sonos and (I think) Denon. If you're at all interested in Bluetooth or AirPlay, you'll need to add them externally to Sonos. I think MusicCast supports both (I rarely have found them to be needed. YMMV). Sonos SonosNet has long been the standard for rock solid network stability, but the new mesh solutions from Google and others should now work just as well.

    Sonos is far ahead in terms of music providers supported, with about 60, including Apple Music, SoundCloud, MixCloud, etc. Most of the others have maybe five or six. However, Sonos has been unable to get Amazon to integrate Audible properly; hopefully that will change soon with the Alexa integration.

    I believe all of them support Spotify's casting, as well as Google Play Music via Chromecast or native app integration.
     
  4. robert_kc

    robert_kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Rave0035:

    I’m a newbie to streaming and in-home wireless. There are many AK’ers like chicks who are far more knowledgeable. Nonetheless, perhaps I can offer the perspective of someone who is in the middle of these issues for the first time.

    My situation: I collect tube amps. I have 5 hi-fi systems in different rooms. I mostly listen to high-res FLAC downloads, SACDs, Blu-ray (audio and video) and CDs via my Oppo universal players. No music stored on a smartphone. (I don’t even own a smartphone.) I have one turntable in one system – mostly as a novelty. Because we no longer have a classical radio station where I live, I wanted to “overlay” internet based music via home wi-fi onto my existing hi-fi systems.

    FWIW, I decided on Google Chromecast Audio gizmos that retail for $35. These are capable of higher than CD quality bit rates. As chicks has pointed out, just in the last year or two the number of options for in-home audio networking has increased significantly – but given your needs I suggest that you take a hard look at Chromecast Audio.

    The only thing that I don’t know about is your desire to play an LP and have it “broadcast to” any hi-fi system in any room in your house. There might be a way to do this – I just don’t know. FWIW, I think it’s a legitimate need – similar to the requirement that some people have to be able to play a CD and have it transmitted via home wi-fi – i.e., without spending countless hours copying the CDs to a computer and/or NAS (network attached storage). I’m hoping that the more knowledgeable AK’ers can share their experience. (I have several friends who have this requirement.)

    FWIW, I took it one step at a time. I bought one Google Chromecast Audio gizmo and got it working with the Google Chrome browser on my PC, playing internet radio stations. I then added two more Google Chromecast Audio gizmos (and will soon add a fourth). Then I bought an Android tablet, and I’m using Tunein to cast internet radio stations. Yesterday I started a trial of Spotify Premium and I have that working with the Chromecast. Sometime this week I’ll also start a trial of Tidal, and maybe Pandora.

    The Chromecast Audio solution will allow you to cast music from your smartphone (and via additional software from your PC or NAS), but I don’t do that.

    The good thing about Chromecast is that your initial investment to start experimenting is trivial: $35 retail. (Best Buy had them on sale for $25 two weeks ago.)

    Switching gears – FWIW, I’m a fan of Oppo products. While I don’t think their new Sonica DAC meets my needs, I find it intriguing. (I’m more interested in their forthcoming UDP-205 universal player.) I have several unanswered questions in my mind about the Sonica DAC, and it may not be useful to you. I mention it because of the following description:

    “Sonica DAC brings high-resolution audio playback, network streaming, and mobile device connection to your existing home audio system. As a member of the OPPO Sonica product family, the AUX input of Sonica DAC enables you to connect existing analog audio source to the Sonica multi-room network. Add some Sonica Wi-Fi speakers and enjoy your favorite tunes anywhere in the house.”​

    What I don’t see is any reference to the Sonica DAC being compatible with Chromecast Audio. For example, is it possible to connect a turntable and phono preamp to the analog input if the Sonica DAC and cast to a Chromecast Audio gizmo?

    Bottom line: There are many solutions that will allow you to use your home wi-fi to stream hi-quality audio from your smartphone, PC, or NAS. The question in my mind is: can you connect a CD player, or turntable and phono preamp, into one of these systems and have that music broadcast via your home wi-fi to something like a $35 Chromecast Audio gizmo.

    FWIW, in my home I have speakers in my kitchen and dining room hard wired into a separate amp in the hi-fi system in my living room. (It was easy for me to run the speaker wires because I have an unfinished basement, and I was able to route the speaker wires through the existing holes in the floor for the radiator pipes.) As a result, I can play any music (CDs, downloaded FLAC, LPs, and now internet radio) throughout the downstairs. I can use Chromecast Audio to stream internet based music (and potentially music stored on my PC) to all 5 of my hi-fi systems. I mention this because a combination of hardwired speakers and wi-fi might work for you.

    I look forward to reading more discussion about this.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
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  5. for_p1

    for_p1 Addicted Member

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    Digital signal distribution is not a problem with range of products mentioned in post above. Analog sources is the problem fro you. You will need to digitize output from FM radio, turntable and other sources. While most FM stations now have streaming service simulcast, you will have major problem with TT.
     
  6. robert_kc

    robert_kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    P.S. I use “sneakerware” to move my high-res downloaded FLAC files to several Oppo universal players in different rooms. While I could easily use DLNA networking to do this, my thought is that I’m going to backup my PC-based music (and other files) to multiple inexpensive USB drives anyway. It’s easier and more reliable IMO to carry the USB drive into another room and plug it into the front panel of my Oppo BDP-105 universal players. (I worked in the high-tech field for years, and one of the things that I learned is sometimes a low-tech solution is the best.)
     
  7. chicks

    chicks Lunatic Member

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    Analog sources are available in all the solutions I mentioned above. They all have at least one device with analog inputs and an ADC. You would typically use the device in the tape loop of a receiver, which provides the FM tuner and phono preamp. The sources can then be sent anywhere else in the multi room system.
     
  8. robert_kc

    robert_kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    That's why I find the following statement about the new Oppo Sonica DAC intriguing: " ... the AUX input of Sonica DAC enables you to connect existing analog audio source to the Sonica multi-room network."

    Never mind ... chicks answered while I was typing ...
     
  9. chicks

    chicks Lunatic Member

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    Wasn't aware Oppo had a solution. Thanks!
     
  10. rave0035

    rave0035 Disassemble first, ask questions later. Subscriber

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    Thanks for the quick and thorough responses, guys! I've been doing some cursory internet research today, and I'm already totally overwhelmed!

    I'm thinking, based on what I've read and your responses, that I may actually need two separate but parallel systems:
    1. An analog, line-level distribution network for LP's and FM. This will be a relatively simple network of Output -> Distribution Hub -> Line In to other receivers. I don't really have a need or an interest in controlling these sources from a phone - knobs and switches are fine.
    2. A wireless solution for my digital files and streaming needs.

    Chicks - in some uber preliminary searching, it looks like Sonos products are mostly geared towards wireless speakers and a proprietary system- is this wrong?
    Robert - I need to look into this Sonica DAC. Very intriguing. Also, I appreciate your recommendation of the Chromecast... I do need to try one of these newfangled contraptions to see how I like them.

    Also: very dumb question... wireless audio distribution is capable of broadcasting sufficiently high bitrate? Again, the snobishness :)

    I love this place, and thanks again!
    Mike
     
  11. for_p1

    for_p1 Addicted Member

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    If you use 5GHz network band, there will be sufficient bandwidth for anything.
     
  12. robert_kc

    robert_kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Rave0035:

    It’s cocktail hour at my house and I’m headed into the other room to listen to music via my new-fangled whiz-bang Spotify / Chromecast Audio arrangement.

    Quick thoughts:
    • As I’m certain you are aware, long distance runs of line-level RCA cables (e.g. output from a CD player or phono preamp) can introduce problems, due to impedance, capacitance, and EMI.
    • My understanding off-the-top-of-my-head is that Chromecast Audio is capable of 24bit/96kHz – but I haven’t tested this. (In comparison, my understanding is that Bluetooth is much more limited.)
    • Re “being overwhelmed” – I empathize. That’s why you might consider buying one Chromecast Audio gizmo and get your feet wet. If you go a different route – your sunk cost is $35.
    • If you need a DAC – oy vey – there are countless options … but if you want what is arguably a state-of-the-art DAC capable of (as far as I know) any “hi-res” digital audio format, I agree the new Oppo Sonica gizmo looks intriguing because it combines a high-quality DAC with streaming and networking. But I haven’t studied the other products that chicks listed, so I don’t know how it compares.
     
  13. chicks

    chicks Lunatic Member

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    They're all proprietary to some degree. Sonos has been in the wifi multiroom game longer than anyone; they invented it. They originally required their proprietary mesh network, which has proven to be Uber stable, but opened up to using your home wifi a couple years ago. Problem is, way too many folks have the $59 router from Walmart, which just doesn't cut it. The new mesh routers, with three or more nodes, should be stable enough for both audio and video these days.

    I've found The wirecutter to be a great review resource, without any of the nonsense found in the "audiophile" rags. This is probably the most comprehensive overview you'll find: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/sonos-player/
     
  14. chicks

    chicks Lunatic Member

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  15. uofmtiger

    uofmtiger Super Member

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    Thanks for the plug!:bigok:

    I have not used it with their "link" function, which is supposed to be similar to Sonos, because it is the only Yamaha MusicCast product I own. As I mentioned, I am using mine in two setups using the aux and pre-amp outs. The aux feeds my Marantz receiver and the preamp feeds my Little Dot Amp. The OP needs one more output, so he may need some sort of RCA splitter like this one. The upside to using Yamaha is that it has an analog input, works with Airplay, Bluetooth, has an Optical input if he also wants Chromecast Audio, it has a USB input if he wants to put his music on a thumb drive, and of course has its own apps via the MusicCast app that has apps like Spotify/Pandora/Internet Radio built in. It also has a handy remote for using in the main room.

    Also, rather than using his main receiver as the source for the other setups, this would allow him to use the main receiver for vinyl, while still being able to listen to something else in another room if he wanted. Of course, if he fed the main system's analog/aux outputs into the Yamaha, that could be played in the other systems, as well.
     
  16. rave0035

    rave0035 Disassemble first, ask questions later. Subscriber

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    Thanks again to all!

    The Sonos: Connect is really intriguing to me, especially since it supports Amazon Music. It only has one analog out, correct?
    Anybody here using one?

    Also, RE: long unbalanced cable runs... if I just hook up my kitchen and LR systems, I can keep the run under 20' all-in.

    Mike
     
  17. chicks

    chicks Lunatic Member

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    http://bookshelf-speaker-reviews.com/sonos-connect-review-transform-your-home-theater/

    Analog in and out, which can be connected to the tape loop of your receiver. Also bit-perfect optical and coax digital outputs.

    Yes, it's very flexible, and supports virtually all the major streaming services, including Amazon Unlimited. The upcoming Alexa voice integration is promised to be very deep, not just another Echo skill. Looking forward to it, but probably still a few months away.

    You'll hear a lot of criticism about price compared to Chromecast. I have both; the Connect is far more capable than Chromecast, and doesn't have the annoying startup delays that seem to be inherent in Chromecast's design. Chromecast also has no analog inputs. The true Sonos competitors all have similar devices, at similar prices.

    The Sonos app also integrates all your music sources in a single UI; all sources can be searched globally, just one consistent UI to deal with. I greatly prefer it to using multiple apps, although Sonos now has an API for the providers, which Spotify and Google use, if you prefer native apps.
     
  18. uofmtiger

    uofmtiger Super Member

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    The main issue is that your wife may have an issue calling up a podcast app on her phone and playing it on Sonos. The Sonos typically requires you to use their app (with some notable exceptions) rather than independent apps like Bluetooth and Airplay allow.

    Personally, I like the Overcast app which only works with Airplay and Bluetooth, but at least Downcast works with Casting. Not sure how you would go about using them with Sonos (unless Sonos has changed since the last time I checked them out).
     
  19. rave0035

    rave0035 Disassemble first, ask questions later. Subscriber

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    Thanks for taking my wife into account. She currently uses the 'Podcasts' app on her iphone, but I'm guessing many of these 'casts (NPR, etc) could be found via other means?

    Also, I'm a little naive as to why there is an analog in AND out on the Sonos... purpose for the input?

    Mike
     
  20. uofmtiger

    uofmtiger Super Member

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    If she is like me, she likes to listen to podcasts at home and picks up where she left off in the car. I don't know how she would do that with Sonos other than feeding a Bluetooth or AirPlay ( if she is on iOS) signal through its analog inputs (directly or indirectly).
     

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